When we announced our first trip to Disney, we endured a lot of side eye from friends and family. If you’ve made a similar announcement, you may be familiar with the comments like “They’re not going to remember any of it! Why waste your money? Wait until they’re older.”
Well, we took our toddler (and infant) anyway. And we regret nothing. Here’s why.
The memories aren’t just for them.
We were making memories too. One of the things we love about these trips is how we get wrapped in the Disney bubble. The huge parts of our brains normally dedicated to our jobs, laundry, grocery lists, and other daily minutiae are instead completely present with our girls. I don’t miss the funny dinner conversation because I’m doing dishes and my husband doesn’t miss their dance parties because he’s doing yard work. We’re all there together, with nothing to do but have fun.
Also, our kids don’t have to remember every single detail in order for an experience to hold value or worth. I think it’s okay to experience something just for the experience. And you’ll have tons of pictures to document the trip anyway!
(I also want to add that we knew we’d be returning to Disney at some point when they were older. If we thought this was our once-in-a-lifetime trip, we probably would have waited. It’s hard to say.)
You might also be surprised by how much they remember.
Ruby was 2.5 years old on our first trip, so our expectations were low. We were shocked to find that she actually remembers a lot of little details. She knew which characters were at which meals, the general direction that rides were in, which rides she’d been on and with who, and even remembered what she wore in some cases!
We also talk about our trips often and show her pictures, which has helped those memories take root in her incredible toddler brain!
They are awe-struck.
I will never forget Ruby’s face when she spotted Cinderella’s Castle for the first time. Her jaw literally dropped and she was speechless for the entire walk down Main Street. She still has that reaction every time. She can spot the castle from the TTC and monorail resorts too.
Similarly, I will never forget Lucy’s excitement when she spotted Mickey for the first time, pointing and gasping and kicking her legs. She stared at all of the characters with such love and wonder in her eyes, that people from other tables began watching her as characters arrived. As a grandpa sitting close to us whispered to my husband, “This is what it’s all about. These kids and their smiles.”
The magic becomes real.
I’ve been to Disney hundreds of times and I’ve heard the cliche about seeing something through your children’s eyes a hundred times too. But there really is something indescribable about experiencing Disney through your children’s eyes, even if you regularly experienced it through your own eyes as a child.
There is nothing like being lost in a world of magic with a toddler imagination and innocence leading the way, believing that Tinker Bell is really flying over head and that the First Order is really there marching and that the White Rabbit has a rabbit hole to travel back and forth to Epcot from Wonderland.
Celebrate your “firsts” and bring home timeless souvenirs.
Disney loves to celebrate with their guests, so make sure to grab a “celebrating” or “first visit” pin at Guest Services or your resort’s concierge. The cast members and characters will notice and acknowledge whatever you’re celebrating! Imagine your toddler’s face if Cinderella wished them a happy birthday or a cast member made a big deal about their first trip through the Magic Kingdom gates!
Disney souvenirs don’t have to be stuffed animals and gigantic balloons. They can be much more precious! Ruby had her first haircut at the Harmony Barber Shop inside Magic Kingdom, commemorated with special keepsakes and a once-in-a-lifetime story for her baby book. We also had silhouettes made on Main Street, Ruby earned her Tomorrowland Speedway driver’s license, and we’ve bought a Christmas tree ornament to remember every trip!
They can ride almost everything.
Disney World was created for families, which means that everyone can ride most of the rides. We were surprised by how much of the parks were open to us. There are only a handful of thrill rides with height requirements or health advisories at each park!
You’ll never take a cheaper Disney trip.
If your toddler is under 3, they’re mostly “free”. Disney calculates age from check-in day, so you can even go for their 3rd birthday and just check in the day before! They don’t need a ticket, meal plan, or FastPasses. If you stick to buffets and family style meals, they can share your meals. There are plenty of inexpensive kids’ meal options at quick service restaurants too.
If your toddler is over 3, keep in mind that you only have until their 10th birthday before they’re considered “adults” for Disney pricing too!